The Participant Observer

I have had a long and abiding interest in the process by which we make decisions. Long ago, I was taught that the best way to make a decision is to impartially examine all of the relevant facts. Impartiality guarantees objectivity. Sadly, however, we are seldom truly impartial, and therefore, our ability to make objective… Read More

Revealing His Word from Jerusalem

“But the place which the Lord your God shall choose from among all of your tribes to place His Name there, for His dwelling place, shall you seek and shall you come there. And you shall bring there your whole burnt offerings and your sacrifices.” (Deuteronomy 12:5-6) Apparently, the Torah is speaking of our Holy… Read More

A Promise of Blessing

This week’s Torah portion, Eikev, begins relating God’s promise of blessing to the people of Israel. They are about to enter the Promised Land, where God will increase the yield of their harvests and the fertility of their families and livestock if they listen to God. One blessing after another flows through the first verses…. Read More

Do Not Make Yourself a Pesel, Lest Torah Become an Idol

In the next parshah, Moses will tell the Israelite people: “Thereupon the Eternal One said to me, ‘Carve out two tablets of stone like the first, and come up to Me on the mountain; and make an ark of wood. I will inscribe on the tablets the commandments that were on the first tablets that… Read More

Moses Spoke and God Answered ‘Amen’

There are two important issues that must be studied when approaching this week’s Torah portion, the first theological and the second textual. The theological question strikes us from the moment we open this fifth Book of the Bible: Moses is speaking with his voice to the people of Israel. Each of the other four biblical… Read More

Camp Judah: Adventures on the Bus

“I can’t believe we’re here!” I exclaimed, looking directly at my best friend, Shoni. “Camp Judah, here we come!” she yelled back, her voice trailing off and mixing into the rumble of the bus motor. We were almost at our sleep-away camp — the one that Shoni and I had planned all year long to… Read More

With His Assistance …

There must be at least a thousand jokes that begin, “A Catholic priest, an Orthodox rabbi and a Protestant minister enter a bar … .” I’ll begin this week’s column with a story about a Catholic priest, an Orthodox rabbi and a fine Jewish layman. They won’t be entering a bar together, that’s for sure…. Read More

The Heart of the Matter

As the Jewish people worldwide make our way toward the conclusion of the fourth book of the Torah, we approach with the Israelites the end of our time together “in the wilderness.” Unfortunately, the material and agenda of the final two portions of the Book of Numbers are difficult to reconcile given our modern sensibilities…. Read More

Piety and Learning, Not Power, Is Eternal

“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take for yourself Joshua the son of Nun, an individual who has spirit within him, and lay your hand upon him. Stand him up before Elazar the Priest and before the entire congregation, and command him before their eyes. And give of your glory upon him in order that… Read More

In the Footsteps of Abraham

Except for the saints among us, we all boast. Sometimes, we boast about our own natural endowments, our good looks or our athletic prowess. Often, we boast about our achievements, social or professional. There is one type of boasting that seems to be unique to the traditional Jewish community. That is boasting not about oneself,… Read More